Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 National Train Day

During my commute Thursday, I heard the host on Nashville's Lightning 100 radio say it was National Train Day. I've never heard of it, but with a day set aside for something as cool as trains I had to look into it once I got to the office.

TMC Great Grandfather standing between engine and tender
As it turns out, Thursday was not NTD. Today is - Saturday, May 11, 2013. My jaded mind believes most faux holidays were created by Hallmark or American Greeting simply as a cash grab and get guys in trouble with their significant others. But in this case, Amtrak of all folks started National Train Day in 2008.

Based on the day's Wikipedia page, Amtrak established National Train Day to commemorate the anniversary of the driving of the golden spike that completed the transcontinental railroad. The pattern for NTD was established to fall on the Saturday closest to May 10. This year, therefore, NTD falls on May 11, 2013. By the way, if you aren't familiar with the story of the building of the transcontinental railroad AND you enjoy reading - immerse yourself into Stephen Ambrose's book Nothing Like It In The World. A fantastic read.
So what would National Train Day be without some quality train music, right? I'm not about to drag this post out to the n'th degree with a boocoodle of train songs. But I thought I'd include a six-pack to fire your boilers and drive your diesels today.

Fresh off their award-winning performance at Couch By Couchwest in March this year, Uncle Leon and The Alibis are my lead-off track with the infectious Beer Train. (Or maybe I was supposed to remind folks you can catch an infection from them. Hmm.) Oh never mind. Just grab your favorite brand of suds, rally some friends, crank this number, (attempt to) designate lead and backup vocals, and Vine the results on Twitter.

TMC against the wall waiting for my train to come in
With Amtrak having established the train's most deserving day, its only appropriate to include a song named for Amtrak. Scott Miller simply cannot do anything but a rock-solid performance of the Amtrak Crescent - whether he is singing solo or with his band, The Commonwealth. (For the record, Scott also performed at Couch By Couchwest although not on a train like Uncle Leon.)

Sounds of Roger Miller in the house is one of my favorite childhood memories. Daddy had a Zenith fold-down turntable with fold-out speakers covered in avocado-green woven fabric. He played Miller's Golden Hits LP on most Saturdays.
My sister, brother and I enjoyed some of Roger's funny, bouncy songs at first: You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd, Dang Me. But one of Daddy's favorites -  Engine Engine #9 - soon became one of mine along with many of his other underrated songs. My dad  was (and still is) a pretty stoic man. But when the stylus began the opening to this one, he'd sing along and keep a beat by tapping his pocket. You'd hear his change and keys jingle kind of like a tambourine.

Will Kimbrough - Another Train - Slide on a dobro guitar, harmonica, and a bluesy vibe from one of the most talented and versatile musicians and lyricists around. I believe Another Train from Will's album Americanitis seemed to fit this theme to a T.

The first train I recall riding - Fair Park, Nashville TN
Todd Snider's eulogy to his friend Skip Litz in Train Song from his album, East Nashville Skyline is truly an honest but haunting song. I'm pretty sure it was the first song I played a second time - and then a third and so on - after buying the CD.

After getting really introspective with Roger Miller and Todd Snider, how about I stoke the firebox and end this post with some just flat-out, greasy, Southern swamp rock courtesy of Blackfoot.


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